2018 Chidaine Les Choisilles Montlouis Sur Loire
“This is how we save the world,” says François Chidane. I’m happy to add that saving the world involves drinking bottles of the wine François makes. And it all begins with a story:
The shelves of Waterford Wine & Spirits represent the world’s best wine growers. If I were electing an All-Star team from among them, François Chidane of Montlouis-sur-Loire would be on it. François is one of the great champions of Chenin Blanc, as well as one of the wine world’s best success stories.
After finishing viticultural school in the 1980s, François went to work with his father, Yves, who had four hectares of rented vineyards in the appellation of Montlouis-sur-Loire. When Yves retired in 1989, he passed the torch to his son.
Early on, François negotiated clever contracts with the vineyard owners he was renting from, giving him options to buy vineyards should they come up for sale. By 2006, François had purchased many of the Montlouis vineyards he had been renting, along with Vouvray’s prestigious Clos Baudoin. In the span of about 15 years, this small artisan farmer became one of the Loire Valley’s most serious players.
Meanwhile, François was experimenting with organic and biodynamic farming. By 2003, he had his vineyards certified as both. François harvests all his grapes by hand. He presses them gently and vinifies them on their wild yeasts. He seeks slow alcoholic fermentations to develop more layers of complexity and produce an antioxidant blanket of carbon dioxide, which minimizes the necessity of adding any sulfur.
Like all the wines François makes, Les Choisilles — which is named for a type of black slate — is a study of its terroir. Les Choisilles is vinified dry, from parcels of 30- to 90-year-old vines on clay and silica soils over limestone tuffeau. The wine is fermented for up to six months, then aged on its lees in large barrels. As the rave reviews of Wine Spectator and Vinous state, the 2018 Les Choisilles shows beautiful minerality and elegant white and yellow fruits and flowers. Spectacular now, and better with every passing month.
How do drinking bottles of Chidane 2018 Les Choisilles save the world? François is embracing regenerative agriculture, which improves the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted into organic matter for soils and plants. This kind of farming doesn’t till vines and nurtures cover crops. Vines root themselves in a more complex and dynamic ecosystem, which allows them to more more transparently express their terroir. François says the wines he makes today are the best he’s ever made. And because one-third of the earth’s surplus CO2 comes from poor agricultural practices, François says regenerative wine growing may be part of saving the world.
If that isn’t an incentive to drink a few bottles of Chicane 2018 Les Choisilles, then nothing is.
“This offers a core of pear, green fig and quince flavors that show incredible purity, framed by notes of bittersweet almond, sea salt and chalk, with hints of fennel and lime zest adding to the complexity. Vibrant acidity links all the elements and perfectly executes the rather savory, mouthwatering finish.”
— Wine Spectator, 94 points
“Blended from different plots with silex soils. Very elegant on the nose, offering apple and pear plus hints of pepper, smoke, crushed stone and honey. Lithe and lean in the mouth, featuring underripe apricot and pear, bright acids and tons of minerality.”
— Vinous, 93 points